chinese exodus of influence

In the early days of African discovery soldiers, missionaries, and explorers led the way towards the attempted understanding of and preceding conquest of Africa. This push came from the world powers of the day in Western Europe – now we see a new wave of settlers moving in on the African continent. However, this exodus should not be a surprise. Lured by the increase in wealth, property, and life style, Chinese migrants are starting new lives in Africa. Approved by the Beijing government, the migrants are involved in agriculture reform, construction (which is a huge Chinese business in Africa), and trade.

The Chinese relationship with Africa is strong and this new development should not come as a surprise. “To build a unified front against imperialism,” was the Chinese goal in the 1950s. This involved supporting the growing African decolonization, nationalist movements, and revolutions. There is a strong history of economic ties between China and Africa. We can see this in Chinese blue and white porcelain found at African gravesites from the expeditions of Zheng He. Zheng He left the Cape of Good Hope with the gift of a giraffe. Trade relations with China only increased from there.

China began its first bilateral agreements in 1956 with Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, and Guinea. China had been in agreement with the Soviet Union in supporting African revolutions, but China became more interested in providing financial and military support for nationalist movements. In the 1960s there were nineteen African countries with official ties to Beijing. The recent wave of nearly 750,000 Chinese migrants are not the first. In the 1960s Mao Zedong sent people to forge political ties with the continent. This newest wave or Chinese people is to strengthen the Chinese claims over raw materials and markets. The head of the China Export-Import Bank has said that he will support this migration with “investment, project development, and help with the sale of products.” Mr. Li says,”There’s no harm in allowing [Chinese] farmers to leave the country to become farm owners [in Africa],” he added.

Mission of the China Export-Import Bank:

The main mandate of the Bank is to implement the state policies in industry, foreign trade and economy and finance to provide policy financial support so as to promote the export of Chinese mechanical and electronic products and high- and new-tech products, to support Chinese companies with comparative advantages to “go global” for offshore construction contracts and overseas investment projects, to develop and strengthen relations with foreign countries, and to enhance Sino-foreign economic and technological cooperation and exchanges.

Beyond the trade relations that are now ever growing, the political ties have been and remain strong. During the 1960s China provided military and financial to nationalist movements as well as increasing development dollars – $100 million. They also sent 150,000 technicians to implement projects in agriculture, transport, and infrastructure development. China was involved in numerous independence movements. In the build-up to democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China was providing financial support, but it wasn’t enough. After Lumumba was assassinated by the efforts of the CIA, the Chinese demonstrated en masse. Millions gathered in Peking, 400,000 in Shanghai which solidified the Chinese influence and support for further revolutionary movements. A new regime was supported in Tanzania (1964) until Nyerere took power. Nyerere even adopted the Mao-style uniform. Chinese engineers built a railroad from Zambia to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania showing the Chinese economic might and proving that China was serious in Africa. China supported many nationalist and revolutionary movements (see map) with arms, money, medical supplies, scholarships, and guerrilla trainings and camps.

In 1971 China received 76 votes for a permanent UN Security Council seat. Of those votes 26 were from African countries and by the 1980s fourty-four African countries had established diplomatic ties with Beijing. These ties soon faded out, but have recently been rekindled in the 1990s and more recently in 2006. In the third China-Africa forum 48 African countries were represented. China now represents the leading Asian developing giant, above India, Singapore, and Thailand. China now rivals OECD countries or the developed West in providing foreign aid (rogue aid). China now outbids the World Bank and in 2006-2008 provided over $10 billion in loans to African countries.

China has regained its strong influence in African countries. Their power is unmatched and their recent wave of settlement unprecedented. This is a point of contention for both Western powers who may be afraid of the growing Chinese power and the people of African countries who should be wary of another exploiter. The Chinese may have a history of support, development, and influence, but that does not justify current action.

Featured entry on The Issue: China in Africa

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2 Comments

  1. I think you are right to note Chinese involvement in Africa but too hasty to judge it as manipulative or malicious. The US tradition of viewing others’ (especially China’s) actions abroad as ‘evil’ or manipulative is an imposed evil on the other. We have to be careful playing into stereotypes of Chinese and reflect on how US involvement in Africa can be seen in the same way. I know you also do this but what kind of involvement in Africa would be appropriate for China? What about for the US?

  2. With my most current research I am confident in saying that any (US, Chinese, etc.) government involvement in Africa has been manipulative and malicious. In my writing I am not trying to indict the whole of the Chinese people, as it is their government’s actions and policies. The fact that the Chinese government is creating and promoting programs that are producing ill effects for the people of African countries is troubling especially because of the influence China has in African countries. As to the kind of involvement in Africa that would be appropriate for China or the US or any other power, I cannot say. One, because I do not live in an African country and two, even if I did have the answer (which I am working on) would a government really listen to what is best for people when there is economic and political gains to be had?

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